When speaking to lawyers and our clients, we realise that confusion may sometimes arise due to the use of different terminologies. For example, while the Forensic Document Examiner uses different terms to differentiate between the disputed and undisputed signatures or handwriting, the client may use the word “samples” interchangeably. Here are some commonly used terms in the field of Forensic Document Examination you may find helpful when discussing a case with the expert:
- Questioned signature or handwriting
Refers to a signature or handwriting of which the authenticity or origin (source) is disputed.
- Known specimens
Signatures or handwritten entries of which the authenticity and origin (source) are undisputed are referred to as “known specimens”. In Forensic Document Examination, known specimens are compared with questioned signatures or writing to determine authorship.
There are two types of known specimens: normal and request specimens. Normal specimens are those that were written in the past and collected from one’s day-to-day activities. These include contracts, cheques, notebooks, application forms, diaries etc. Request specimens, as the name suggests, are obtained by requesting a subject to provide samples of signatures or writing, usually for investigative purposes.
Look out for our next article which explains why normal specimens are preferred over request specimens.
- Contemporaneous specimens
Known specimens that were written or signed around the same period as the questioned writing or signature. It is important that at least some of the specimens provided for comparison are contemporaneous, since one’s writing can undergo gradual changes over time or deteriorate in line quality with age, injury or illness. Specimens which were written several years apart from the questioned writing may not be suitable for the comparison process.
Click here to learn more about Forensic Document Examination.
Read more about Forensic Document Examination in our book, Forensic Science – Briefs for the Legal Practitioner.
The Forensic Experts Group, Forensic Science – Briefs for the Legal Practitioner (1st edition, 2017)